Before the coronavirus, the opioid epidemic was the largest national health crisis.
Government officials at local and national levels were taking various steps to combat this problem, but some places were having more luck than others. Philadelphia is one such city who continues to struggle.
2019 Overdose Deaths in Philadelphia
While many cities have seen drops in the number of drug overdose deaths in recent years, overdose deaths in Philadelphia continue to show little improvement. Pittsburgh, for example, saw a 40% decrease in drug overdose deaths from 2017 to 2018.1 In contrast, in 2017, unintentional drug overdose deaths in Philadelphia peaked at 1,217. This number dropped in 2018 before rising once more in 2019 to 1,150 deaths, a 3% increase from 2018.2 Although the 2019 statistics are an improvement to the numbers from 2017, the overall trend for the past several years is alarming. In 2010, there were only 387 unintentional drug overdose deaths, but less than a decade later these numbers are over 1,000.2
Not surprisingly, one of the biggest problems is with opioids. In 2019, 84% of these drug overdose deaths involved an opioid.2 People who become addicted to prescription painkillers are neglecting to get prescription drug addiction treatment and are instead turning to stronger opioids like fentanyl that are more prone to overdose. Stimulants like cocaine and meth are another large part of the problem, with half of 2019 drug overdose deaths in Philly involving these drugs.2
2020 Overdose Deaths in Philadelphia
Halfway through 2020, many worry that the coronavirus may not be helping matters for the City of Brotherly Love. Along with getting people physically sick, the coronavirus is also associated with anxiety, stress, financial issues, boredom, depression, and loneliness. All of these problems can trigger the onset of a substance abuse problem or lead to relapse in those who were previously in recovery. Also, because of social isolation practice, many people may be using these drugs alone and therefore, be more at risk of overdosing.
Because of these concerns, harm reduction activists in Philadelphia took some preventive action. They started handing out free Narcan, the life-saving opioid overdose reversing drug, to people in the city including in more drug-ridden areas like Kensington. One organization, Prevention Point Philadelphia, claimed to have distributed almost double the amount of Narcan than normal during the first month of the city’s stay-at-home orders.3 These preventive measures appear to be making some difference. Instead of the numbers rising drastically higher during the coronavirus crisis like in other big cities like Chicago, Philadelphia drug overdose deaths from 2020 are relatively the same as they were last year at this time.3,4 Along with getting people into Philly opioid addiction treatment centers, the large quantities of Narcan on the street may be part of the solution for the continued fight against the opioid epidemic and drug overdose deaths in Philly.
As a drug rehab center in Philadelphia, these high number of drug overdoses in our area are cause for concern and we want to help. Addiction and overdose can happen to anyone, so it is important to act fast if you believe that you or someone you care about has a problem.
Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.
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